“One to Go”
January 15th, 2009
The amount of times that I have stopped in to check on CSI has been slim in the years since I stopped paying much attention to the show – yes, there have been various character exits, numerous serialized storylines, and intriguing plots, but my Thursdays are chock-full enough as it is. But what I’ve gathered in my relative ignorance is that the show remains by far the most effective of the franchise, demonstrating character-driven storylines and weathering cast changes with subtle precision.
But the exit of Gil Grissom is a whole different story: while other exits felt like they were part of the ebb and flow of television procedurals, a changeover we deal with because Law & Order taught us to. But the loss of someone whose presence has always been the most central, whose calm and cool demeanor defined the very premise of CSI? This is an entirely different scenario, a watershed moment for the show’s durability and more importantly its ability to bring in a new lead actor.
In what is Gil Grissom’s final stand, his team has to band together to give him one last victory while at the same time getting used to seeing Laurence Fishburne walking the halls of CSI with his own brand of case solution. While the first half was defined by Grissom’s attempts to speak to and understand a notorious serial killer, the second half lets Grissom solve the case, along the way using many of his unique methods and saying goodbye to the people around him, while letting Dr. Raymond Langston be the one who faces off with the Dick and Jane killer.
The result is a rude awakening for Langston, and a solemn and fitting goodbye foor Grissom – it sets one up to want to try harder, and the other a chance to leave on good terms. The handling of the switchover is another reason why, if I’m stuck in a hotel room in the middle of the day with nothing else to watch tomorrow, a Spike TV rerun of CSI will continue to be a solid option even after Grissom is long gone.
There is nothing personal about the Dick and Jane killer for Gil Grissom: yes, he cares if he is caught, and wants to find something approximating justice in what is now his final case. He is choosing to go on his own accord, and is finishing this off as much to open a door to his future than to close a door to his past. We, of course, won’t be seeing that future: we see Grissom, happy as a bug-lover in a tropical jungle, traveling to Costa Rica to find Sarah, his lost love, deep in the jungle. The episode isn’t a final stab at greatness: he solves the case using one of his trademarks ingenious strategies, figuring out a location based on the location of the moon, but this isn’t a real final Holmes-ian act.
Instead, the episode balances his own success with Langston’s failure: he is helpful in piecing together pieces of the case, but his attempt at tricking DJK into giving up the location demonstrates that he takes a much more hands-on approach than Grissom. Still, Fishburne is playing things close to the chest with the character: we still don’t really know who this guy is, yet alone how he will operate in the handling of major cases. He doesn’t even officially take the job: Grissom offers it to him, and he simply says he will consider it.
It’s a slow build to the character, which is going to be a smart decision in the end as it relates to the integration of him into a cast dynamic. While we get to see him interact with a few people, for the most part he is Grissom’s hire: how he will integrate into the cast remains unseen, which means that there will be a few more episodes of learning about this character. I probably won’t be sticking around for those: not only do I not really have time, but I also think that it’ll work out okay in the end. I don’t really think it will bring too much drama, at least nothing to distract from the show’s usual structure.
But this one was really about Grissom: his goodbyes with Greg and Nick were well-handled, and his encounter with Hodges was perhaps the most important in that it answered the central question. The show may be losing its Sherlock Holmes, but Watson was always pretty intelligent too: and considering that the show is in many ways filled with Watsons, they should be able manage just fine.
- I wasn’t aware that Battlestar Galactica producers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson had made the move to CSI; they always had an eye for really intriguing military rituals, so the detail oriented nature of CSI should be a good fit for them.
- I’m sorry: I know it’s romantic, but I’m still really weirded out by Sarah and Grissom together – its just kind of gross for me.
- After the first part’s creepy visit from DJK, the accomplice was by comparison kind of uninteresting – he wasn’t as threatening as he could have been, and it felt a bit more pedestrian than we usually see.